On Thursday 13 June, Azza Karam gave her speech at the acceptance of the position of endowed professor "Religion and Sustainable Development" at the Faculty of Religion and Theology of the VU University Amsterdam. ICCO through Civic Engagement Alliance, sponsors this chair, together with the ACT Alliance.
Azza Karam sees a great void in international cooperation: governments, aid organizations, but also multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, have little regard for the role of religion in sustainable development. That while religion unmistakably plays a major role in the lives of billions of people. Worldwide 84% of the world's population is religious.
Azza Karam emphasized in her speech that religion is everywhere, it is part of the culture of a country, and therefore also of relationships between people and organizations. Religion always matters in development.
ICCO knows from experience that cooperation is better if it is attuned to local ideas, needs and culture. In Ethiopia, poor farmers conquered their resistance to new farming techniques after the church, encouraged by the local aid organization, started talking to farmers about God's creation and the importance of sustainability.
Different religious backgrounds
In the Moluccas, a local organization - with the support of ICCO - is working not only on making nutmeg production more sustainable, but also on a better understanding between the religious groups that live in conflict with each other. Now that people from different religious backgrounds are trading with each other, images of enemies are declining, and conflicts are less likely to flare up.
Religion can be undermining and disruptive in a society, not in the least when it concerns women rights. Religious leaders preach that women are worth less than men, reject homosexuality and even call for hatred of other religions. Religion may be the problem here or be abused, but the same religion can also be a source of inspiration for finding solutions. In this respect, Azza Karam says that religion must always be true to the universal rights and individual freedoms of people.